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Varana Rajamaha Viharaya

- Dagabas, giant rocks and caves -

source :

We next visited Raja Maha Vihara, Varana, which is approximately 20 miles from Colombo. It has got its name from the Va trees which grew in its vicinity - Va Aranaya - a place where lots of Va trees grew. This too is a rock temple on a high elevation where King Walagamba sought refuge from the Cholas. Varana was a meditation retreat from ancient times and the dates back to King Devanmpiyatissa. There is a Brahmi inscription which reads "This is donated to Tissa Dhatta Thero, the brother of Majima Thero" and it is most likely that it refers to Tissa Dhatta Thero who was the first pupil of Ven. Mahinda who came to Sri Lanka to spread Buddhism. The area where the inscription is was over-grown and we were not able to see it though a monk told us that it is there.

In later years, this temple became known because King Walagamba hid in one of the caves here during the Chola invasion. He later gifted a shrine room. To the left of the temple was a large hall with a very beautiful ornate wooden covered Pirith Mandapaya. To the right there were steps leading to a high elevation where there was an 18 ft. reclining Buddha statue and in the quadrangle outside was a Bodhi Tree. Varana, after King Walagamba's time had gone into oblivion and was covered in jungle.

After many centuries, during the Kotte period, King Parakrama Bahu VI who ruled in Jayawardanapura, reclaimed Varana Temple, endowed it with a Buddha statue as well as a standing Vishnu statue and Bodhisathva and also gave a grant of temple lands. It is said that the king and queen came personally to open the shrine and make offerings to the Buddha. We were taken up by the tranquillity of this place. Large forest trees and shady groves and large boulders surround the temple premises. There is an outcrop of giant rocks and caves.

By Sirancee Gunawardena
Sunday Times, 24th November 1996

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Added August 14, 2006
Updated April 12, 2007
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